The Town Planning Board asserted in court yesterday that its appeal panel had no authority to deal with a case that resulted in a decision favourable to developers planning a housing estate on a sensitive New Territories wetland.
Barrister John Litton, for the board, said the law only empowered the appeal panel to review a decision on whether a plan should be granted.
The panel had no power to hear the appeal by Nam Sang Wai Development and Kleener Investment on whether conditions under an already permitted plan had been fulfilled, he said.
The planning board is seeking a judicial review of the appeal panel's ruling last December that it could review an earlier decision on the development.
The High Court was told that the two developers, controlled by Henderson Land Development and the Fu family, led by Adrian Fu Hau-chak, submitted a planning application for development at Nam Sang Wai, Yuen Long, in 1992.
The plan included an 18-hole golf course, 2,550 residential units and a nature reserve at nearby Lut Chau. Permission was granted in 1994.
But the developers did not begin the project until 2010, when they filed a new plan under which the golf course was cut to 10 hectares, the flats were more concentrated and a new wetland enhancement area was added. The planning board ruled the new plan did not fulfil the initial plan's conditions and rejected it.
The developers asked the board to review its decision, but it replied that the law did not empower it to review a decision related to the "fulfilment of the approval conditions".
The developers then took the matter to the appeal panel, which ruled it could judge the appeal and vary the planning board's decision.
Yesterday, Litton said the appeal panel had no power to deal with the application.
Barrister Valentine Yim, for the developers, argued the Basic Law allowed residents the right to seek judicial remedies and that the developers had the right to a review of the planning board's decision. Justice Godfrey Lam Wan-ho reserved judgment.